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Local leaders call on state legislators, private citizens to take action on coronavirus


Local leaders are calling on individuals to “get back to basics” and state leaders to form any sort of plan in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Like all of Wisconsin, Dane County is in the grips of a major surge in coronavirus cases, which has resulted in increasing hospitalizations and deaths.

Despite a pledge on September 15 to step up enforcement of local orders limiting capacity in most public-facing businesses, threatening to fine businesses up to $1,000 per person over capacity, Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) acknowledged in an email to Madison365 that no such citations had been issued.

“We have been stepping up compliance,” PHMDC director Jenelle Heinrich said at a press conference Monday, but did not say how many compliance checks had been carried out or how many complaints had been received. She said most compliance checks were done within the City of Madison.

“We’re continuing to go out, we’ll be out this weekend around Dane County. Just because we’re out and we’re inspecting and looking at what’s going on in the business, doesn’t automatically mean that somebody gets a citation,” she said.

PHMDC officials said 29 citations had been given to businesses for failing to require masks, and announced last week that 13 private residences would receive citations for holding Halloween parties.

At a press conference Monday, local leaders reiterated that the largest share of coronavirus spread happens in small private gatherings among family and friends. As many as 35 percent of those infected reported attending such a gathering.

“Contact-tracing notes regularly mentioned the words, birthday, football, wedding, church, party,” Heinrich said.

Heinrich, along with County Executive Joe Parisi and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, stressed the need for renewed commitment among citizens.

“I’m tired of saying it,” Heinrich said. “And I know people are tired of hearing it, and we are all so very fatigued by this pandemic. We are all longing for a day when we can return to normal, but too many of us are trying to be normal right now.”

“The real problem is that too many individuals are giving up on the solutions that we know work,” Rhodes-Conway said. “We need to get back to basics. Wear your mask, keep your distance, wash your hands. We must take action. And we must take action now. It’s up to each and every one of us, because we are all in this together.”

Rhodes-Conway said in the early days of the pandemic, city traffic data indicated a 50 percent drop in traffic, but that it’s steadily increased since.

“You may have noticed we have morning and afternoon rush hour again,” adding that traffic on East Washington Avenue is now 90 percent of normal

“These are not normal times and we can’t act like they are normal times. Each one of us needs to reevaluate our daily routine,” she said.

She and Heinrich both also urged people to rethink holiday plans, and consider gathering by online video rather than in person.

“You never think that someone you love is going to make you sick, but it’s happening. And it’s happening all over. We need to take care of ourselves and each other,” she said.

Parisi said it’s also important to make fewer shopping trips and not travel outside the county to get around local regulations.

Parisi also emphasized the need for state leaders to work together on a solution.

“We’re doing everything possible here, but we need some help. We need some backup,” he said, noting recent data suggesting Governor Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order was working before it was struck down but the state Supreme Court on May 13.

“There is currently no comprehensive statewide plan in Wisconsin to deal with this crisis. And the result of that inaction is playing out in hospitals across our state,” Parisi said. “The election is over. Now we need our state leaders to govern, to meet with one another, to come up with a plan, and to execute that plan. And to our state legislative leaders, saying no is not a plan. Suing to stop health orders is not a plan. … Our current situation, in which people are literally dying as we speak here today, while state leaders are not even speaking to one another, is just simply unacceptable. … So please, we need you to act, we need a plan, and we need it now. Don’t tell us why you can’t or why you won’t. Show us how you can.”

“The coronavirus pandemic is not going away,” Rhodes-Conway said. “It won’t be solved by an election. It won’t be solved by government alone. It won’t be solved by healthcare alone. It won’t be solved by traveling to a different county or a different state. And it won’t be solved by blaming any one sector or place or person. It will be solved by each and every one of us taking action to protect ourselves and each other. We must take action and we must take action now.”